How many Internet memes have you seen today? “What is that?” you might say. You may not have known what to call them, but memes are those inspirational sayings combined with pictures. They are everywhere on the social media because they are easy to create. You can find a picture of a pig, for example, and then a quote by Lord Bacon. See what I mean? To be polite, if a business associate posts a meme we sometimes “Like” it to make them feel good.
However, one size rarely fits all in life. Now picture another meme. It is a gorgeous home on a Hawaiian beach. In the picture there is a beautiful car. The saying on the poster reads: “If You Believe in Your Success, It Will Come!”
Even though the meme received 800 “Likes,” you look at it and your heart feels empty. It is not you. You may have just discovered the truth of being true to yourself.
My friend Betty
Several years ago, when high-tech was relatively new, my friend Betty decided to enter the world of software sales. Most of us had no idea what software was, let alone how it worked. Nevertheless, Betty told herself it was a more useful pursuit than teaching. Betty is an empathetic listener and a spiritual and nurturing soul. The sales manager, though not the least bit spiritual, figured Betty could get inside the heads of potential customers with her “touchy-feely stuff.”
Betty convinced herself that making “tons of money” was much more important than helping others. Though she knew almost nothing about how software was designed or programming, she learned all of the acronyms, went to the training classes, and learned who to call if a question stumped her.
Her co-workers were a bit of a problem. Actually, a big problem. They were hard-chargers, hard-partiers and some were big time drinkers. Betty was not a party animal, and a half-glass of Pinot Noir was usually more than enough for her. Nevertheless, she stuffed down her feelings because she was not only “hitting her numbers,” she was exceeding them.
Small industry, big numbers
In those days, software sales was a relatively small industry. As high-tech exploded, superstars from one company were snapped up by other companies. Betty went from the first company, to the next and then to a third.
Soon Betty was receiving huge bonuses. She drove a German luxury sedan and she bought a house. Her wardrobe had become fancy, and her new home was decorated by a big-shot interior designer.
The problem was that Betty no longer recognized herself in the mirror. Her co-workers were mean, calculating and rude. Even the one or two who were nice to her were “all-surface.”
Her breaking point came on a company all-expense-paid vacation at a luxurious resort on a beach in Hawaii. It was for “winners,” the sales people who made their numbers (about 150 of them). The president of the company, a rising star, told them how wonderful they were. He handed out big awards.
At the awards banquet she was seated next to a co-worker and his wife. He was partying pretty hard. He asked Betty if she could guess why he loved Hawaii so much. She didn’t know. Then he said:
“It’s because the mediocre people who work in run-of-the-mill jobs can’t afford to come here. You know, like when you were a teacher!”
He said something that was so unexpected that her jaw dropped. His wife even laughed! This one, obnoxious comment opened her eyes. Not long after that she submitted her resignation.
She never went back to high-tech or even to sales. She enrolled in a school of religious studies and earned a graduate degree. She would eventually become the director of a community center. After she left the job, she would also meet her future husband — a man who was spiritual as well.
So what is success? Is it a meme? A trite expression? Maybe it works for some people, but never feel badly if it isn’t you. You cannot live your life by trying to be someone else.
When I speak or write, one of the lessons I love to teach is that when we hide ourselves from ourselves, we can’t make a difference in our lives or in anyone else’s life. My wish for you is that when you look in the mirror, you see yourself.